Ministers welcome 100th rural mobile broadband tower

The 100th new rural mobile tower is up and operational in Gebbies Valley, outside Christchurch.

“This is a significant milestone for the Government’s second phase of the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI2), and is part of the important work Government is doing, together with the Rural Connectivity Group, to help connect rural communities in some of the hardest to reach parts of New Zealand,” says Minister for Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, Kris Faafoi.

“COVID-19 has clearly shown us the importance of being digitally connected, and this new tower in Gebbies Valley means that more people are now able to connect to broadband, bringing social inclusion and allowing people to work and learn from home,” said Kris Faafoi.

There are to be seven new mobile sites in the Christchurch City Council area – with five in Banks Peninsula. Once these sites are completed, 650 rural homes and businesses, which cannot currently access broadband, will have the opportunity to connect.

The new tower in Gebbies Valley will bring 4G-based broadband services, as well as 4G voice calling, to the local community. The tower is equipped with the latest mobile technology enabling Voice-over-LTE, or VoLTE, high-quality voice calling services. It will also provide 3G voice calling when that is commissioned soon as the tower also covers a State Highway 75 black spot.

Infrastructure Minister, Shane Jones, pointed to the importance of the second phase of the Rural Broadband Initiative programme (which is partly funded by the Provincial Growth Fund), that will be building approximately 500 new rural mobile broadband and mobile black spot towers, alongside hundreds more rural wireless broadband towers, around rural New Zealand by 2023.

“In a world-first, the RBI2 mobile towers will all be providing service to customers of all three mobile networks (Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees) by using shared antennae technology on the towers,” Shane Jones said.

“Having all three mobile operators’ services available from every Rural Connectivity Group tower will extend coverage for emergency services calling and will allow for emergency calls and information to be received by more people in more remote areas of New Zealand.”

Kris Faafoi said having 4G or wireless broadband, as is being installed under the RBI2 programme, would mean remote communities would be much better equipped to get up and running now New Zealand had moved to COVID Alert Level 1 and could return to more normal ways of doing business.

“With 100 towers now completed by the Rural Connectivity Group, 8,121 homes and businesses now have access to quality broadband services. As well as this, 343km of state highway now has improved coverage, making our roads safer and easier to access by emergency services. 23 tourism locations are also connected,” Kris Faafoi said.

Once the RBI2 programme is fully completed in 2023, approximately 84,000 rural homes and businesses will receive improved broadband. The Mobile Black Spot Fund will provide about 1400km of state highway coverage and connectivity to 168 tourism sites across New Zealand.

NOTES:

  • 4G-based mobile broadband services are delivered using traditional mobile cell-towers using 4G technology (commonly referred to as ‘fixed wireless’ services). These towers are being installed by the Rural Connectivity Group, which is a joint venture of the three mobile network operators Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees. For more information see www.thercg.co.nz.
  • Rural wireless broadband towers are also being installed for the RBI2 programme by 17 ‘wireless ISPs’ or WISPs. These towers deliver broadband using wireless technology beaming into rural homes and businesses. For a list of the WISPs installing RBI2 towers see https://www.crowninfrastructure.govt.nz/rural/who/.
  • At the end of the March 2020 quarter, the Rural Broadband Initiative phase two (RBI2) had made improved broadband available to 45,768 rural households and businesses, which is 54 per cent of the overall target.
  • Under the Mobile Black Spot Fund Programme (MBSF), mobile coverage is being deployed to:
    • State Highway black spots where there is currently no mobile coverage, to support public safety in high traffic areas where there are high incident rates. 443km of mobile coverage have been deployed
    • Tourism locations around New Zealand where there is currently no mobile coverage to support tourism and economic growth. 36 tourism sites have new mobile coverage.
  • More information on overall programme process can be found in the Quarterly Broadband Update at https://www.crowninfrastructure.govt.nz/wp-content/uploads/CIP-Quarterly-Report-March-2020.pdf.

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